RI Native Shines on The Voice

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Sarah PotenzaView Larger +

Singer-Songwriter Sarah Potenza

Rhode Island native Sarah Potenza has quite the voice. Over the past few days, America has discovered what many locals already know – Sarah Potenza is the real deal.

The Smithfield native is poised to become Rhode Island’s next big star after her appearance on NBC’s The Voice last night. Her high energy performance of the Rod Stewart/Faces classic “Stay With Me” absolutely blew away the Voice coaches, “turning” all four chairs, not something you see every day on the show.

In the end, she chose country star Blake Shelton as her coach, a “strategic move,” she explained.

Road Tested

Potenza’s success is no surprise to her fans. She’s played small clubs, honkey-tonk bars and major festivals for several years. In an April, 2013 GoLocalProv review of her band Sarah and the Tall Boys, we noted they were “without a doubt one of the best country blues bands in America.”

During that show at The Met in Pawtucket, Potenza acknowledged the portrait of Janis Joplin that adorns the wall there, and sprung into “The Life,” an original song about life on the road. Ironically, since her Voice appearance, she’s been getting compared to Joplin more than any other artist.

She’s honed her craft over the last 10 or so years; in Chicago apartments, Nashville dive bars or venues like Cady’s Tavern in Chepachet, RI.

Her The Voice performance of “Stay with Me” was straight out of the rock and roll songbook, but she’s made a career so far as a roots performer, excelling in blues and country. Her influences include Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, Etta James, and Gregg Allman.

Rhode Island Roots

Potenza grew up in Smithfield and attended Smithfield High School. She majored in music at Rhode Island College and in 2003 moved to Chicago to begin a life in music. There she recorded “The Eastside,” a love song set on the East Side of Providence, which was included on the album Acoustic Chicago.

She later formed Sarah and the Tall Boys, marrying bass player and fellow Rhode Islander Ian Crossman. The band established a reputation as a top notch touring act, playing small clubs and festival like Rhythm and Roots, where she quickly became a crowd favorite.

In 2012, she moved to Nashville, and has played at Music City Roots with artists like Jim Lauderdale and John Oates. Last year, she placed 2nd at the American Songwriters Awards with her song “My Turn.” Lately, she’s performed as a solo act with Crossman’s help on guitar and bass.  

Given her overpowering performance last night, we expect Sarah Potenza to go far in the competition. Without a doubt, she has the talent go all the way. We’ll be watching and updating regularly on GoLocalProv. Stay tuned.


Related Slideshow: Top 5 Winter Concerts

If you think winter means a break in the concert season, think again. Some really big names are headed to the area over the next few months. GoLocal Music Critic Ken Abrams picks the Top 5 Winter concerts in this slide show. 

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Fleetwood Mac at the Dunk

Fleetwood Mac, one of the original super groups of the 70s, returns to the area with a show at the Dunkin Donuts Center on January 28. The band totally killed it at two sellout shows this fall in Boston and we expect the same from the legendary group when they play the Dunk.  Of course, the highlight for many fans will be the return of Christine McVie, who had been on hiatus since 1997. Check our review of the Boston show here for a little of what you can expect. Meanwhile, don’t stop thinking about this show.

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Indigo Girls at PPAC

The Indigo Girls were in the forefront of the folk-rock revival in the 1980s. They’ve continued to develop artistically with fresh harmonies and ever relevant lyrics. With over 14 million albums sold, they’re the only duo to have Billboard Top 40 titles in the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and 10’s. We’re looking forward to seeing how their usually stripped down sound plays when they are joined by the RI Philharmonic Orchestra at the Providence Performing Arts Center. The show is Friday the 13th of February, but we guarantee good fortune!

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Nick Lowe at The Narrows

The absolute coolest holiday show around comes to the Narrows Center on Wednesday December 17 as Nick Lowe brings his “Quality Holiday Review” to Fall River.  Along for the ride and backing Lowe will be Los Straitjackets, known for their Mexican wrestling masks and jammin’ guitar chops. Lowe is a well known producer and songwriter having penned hits like “Cruel to be Kind” and “What’s So Funny ‘bout Peace, Love, and Understanding.” Don’t miss this show next week at the Narrows Center. 

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George Clinton at Lupo's

The spectacle that is George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic is our funkiest pick for the Winter concert season. Clinton has been touring with a diverse group of musicians since the late 60s. He’s a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (the largest band ever inducted) and is coming to Lupo's on Friday February 20. They're even bringing along a new release – First You Gotta Shake the Gate. Good times are guaranteed for this one.

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Mardi Gras Ball at Rhodes

Laissez les bon temps rouler! Boogie down to Rhodes on the Pawtuxet on February 28 for the 23rd Annual Cajun and Mardi Gras Ball. The biggest party of the season is always a sell out and this year should be no different with headliners Beau Soleil with Michael Doucet and Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Can’t wait another six months till Rhythm and Roots? Then don’t miss the Mardi Gras Ball.

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Honorable Mention I

Did we mention that it’s a really busy winter concert season?  The Dunkin Donuts Center has a rock show with Linkin Park, Rise Against, and Of Mice and Men on January 24. Another legend, Mr. Neil Diamond, will shake up the Dunk on March 10. Mother Falcon returns to the Columbus Theatre on January 11 and Uncle Tupelo co-founder Jay Farrar is there on February 8. And catch rocker George Thorogood at Cranston's Park Theatre on March 8. 

(Pictured: Neil Diamond)

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Honorable Mention II

Acclaimed Indie artist St. Vincent, who’s 2014 album made numerous “Best Of the Year” lists is coming to Lupos on Sunday March 7th.  Dianna Krall is at PPAC on March 4, on her “Wallflower” tour where she will re-interpret classic rock tunes. Other highlights include legendary party rockers NRBQ, who arrive at the Narrows Center for a pre-New Years Eve show on Tuesday December 30.  The Narrows Center also has a Winter Blues Festival over MLK weekend with artists including Selwyn Birchwood, Yound Neil and the Vipers and Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds.

(Pictured: St. Vincent)

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Coffeehouse Highlights

Common Fence Music in Portsmouth has its popular "Gathering of Fiddlers and Fishermen" on January 24 hosted by John Fuzek. You can also find folk-rocker Patty Larkin there on February 7. Stone Soup in Pawtucket has Marc Douglas Berardo with Tracie Potochnik and Steve Allain on February 7 and Roots performers Atwater-Donnelly visit on March 7. And Sandywoods has a Celtic holiday concert with Matt and Shannon Heaton on December 20.

(Pictured: Patty Larkin)


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